Psy-ops or psych-out?

Officials deny photo of Netanyahu at Dimona, shown on state TV, existed.

netanyahu in dimona 248 88 (photo credit: IBA)
netanyahu in dimona 248 88
(photo credit: IBA)
A photograph of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visiting the Dimona nuclear reactor was aired Tuesday night on the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Channel 1 news show Mabat. The segment was very short, not accompanied by any analysis, and said only that Netanyahu had toured Dimona and been briefed on the work being done there. The accompanying still photograph showed him, dressed in a white coverall, standing next to an unidentified installation. While some of Netanyahu's prime ministerial predecessors have visited Dimona, pictures of the event are not known to have been released. Except that Tuesday's picture was not exactly released either. It was sent only to state-owned Channel 1. The Government Press Office said Wednesday that it had not taken the picture; rather, it had been taken by someone at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, which hosted Netanyahu. Phone calls to the commission to ask for an original print of the picture went unanswered. Channel 1 had not responded to inquiries by press time. An official at the office of Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said she knew nothing about the picture and that Meridor's office was not connected to the Atomic Energy Commission. An official at the Prime Minister's Office denied that the picture existed. The office released no information except that Netanyahu had visited the facility and received a briefing on scientific projects being undertaken there. When asked if the visit represented a message to the world or to Iran, the Prime Minister's Office said it was a routine visit to the facility and did not constitute a message for the international community. Jerusalem is pushing for tough international sanctions on the regime in Teheran in an effort to thwart what it believes is Iran's race to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Israeli officials have also repeatedly stressed that "no option is off the table" regarding Iran - hinting at possible military action. The broadcast of the photo on state TV raises the question of why the Prime Minister's Office went to the trouble of having Netanyahu photographed at the nuclear reactor, but then passed on the photo only to Channel 1 (which has the lowest rating of the three main nightly TV news shows) and did not disseminate it to other news agencies, Israeli or foreign. All material relating to the Dimona nuclear reactor must go through military censorship. In the face of the PMO's denial that the picture exists, the further question arises as to whether there was a security breach here, or whether there was a calculation behind the picture's appearance on state TV only. In the past, Iran has widely disseminated pictures of its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the Natanz nuclear facility, declaring to the world that it is making progress on its nuclear program. For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs